The following column is scheduled to appear in the February 2014 issue of InsuranceNewsNet Magazine, but because Al Granum was known to many in the industry, we are sharing the information with you now.
By Larry Barton
My first job, at the age of 16, was writing obituaries for my hometown paper in Massachusetts.
I hated it. A sophomore in high school, I would spend three afternoons a week working for Kathryn “Kay” Jorgensen, the publisher of The Arlington Advocate. She was a superb teacher, mentor and skilled journalist. But after a few weeks, she would watch me call funeral directors, family members and friends of the deceased. They would cry, I would cry. They would talk about Mom and Dad, their interests and accomplishments, and how they died. It was more depressing to me than algebra.
One day, I asked Kay if I could begin to blossom out into covering politics and sports. She replied, “Larry, you are looking at your job the wrong way. Don’t you understand? You are writing the single last thing that will ever be published about that person’s life. It will go into family Bibles. People will treasure it. The news passes. Lives are remembered.”
Her words smacked me in the face then and they still smack me in the face as I remember them. I was looking at my job the wrong way. Remembering a life is important, and in that spirit, I’d love to share with you a life that changed our industry.
Nearly every notable insurance agent has heard of, or adopted, the One Card System. The system articulated the science of how to manage prospects so they could eventually understand the importance of life insurance. We lost the founder of that system on Jan. 2, but it is his life, and not his passing, that is worth recounting.
Al Granum’s story is one of unwavering belief in the importance of the work of financial professionals, of uncompromising commitment to always doing the right thing for the client, and of unquestionable generosity to share everything he learned for the benefit of the industry.
Born just a few years before the Great Depression and World War II, Al Granum grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin. He was passionate about education and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1943, simultaneously earning his
Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Life Insurance. After graduating, Al served our country for three years by joining the U.S. Navy during the height of World War II. Upon returning home in 1946, Al contracted with Northwestern Mutual in Amery, Wis., where his legacy was born.
After a mere eight years as a life insurance agent with Northwestern Mutual, Al qualified as a life member of the Million Dollar Round Table. He was then appointed managing partner in Chicago in 1963. During his tenure as managing partner, his agency with Northwestern Mutual became the first office in the industry to write more than $150 million dollars of new business in a 12-month period, ranked first in company volume and/or premium a staggering 37 times, and qualified 42 of his 45 agents as MDRT members. It was during that period that he conducted his groundbreaking research, which ultimately led to the development of Client Building and the One Card System.
This ingenious system is a proven track to success for financial services professionals – providing both the art and science of building a clientele. It is arguably his most influential and important contribution to the industry. After 23 legendary years, Granum retired from his managing partner position, but he continued his work – traveling around the world to teach his Client Building system to help strengthen the profession on a global basis.